Category Archives: Dark Ale

Garage Project ‘Chateau Aro – Solera’ BA Pinot Noir Dark Ale


“Château Aro, a dark rubescent ale, conditioned on freshly crushed pinot noir juice and skins, then aged in French oak barrels – all from award winning Escarpment Winery. This very special ‘solera’ release blends together 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 vintages, creating a beer of near unparalleled complexity and depth.”

Glassware: Teku.

Appearance: Interesting colour. Kinda like a mash between a muddy dark red and light brown. What little head forms disappears instantly…and no head = no lacing!

Aroma: Quite dank and musty. Like it has been locked in a dark cellar and hasn’t seen the light of day for years. Loving the subtle tannins from the Pinot Noir juice…comes off rather dry with peppery and earthy spice, raisin, cherry, rose petals and raspberry. A bit of a sharp sting in the nostrils too…then again it does tip the scales at a whopping 11.9% ABV.

Flavour: She’s complex indeed! On the dry side of course but it still displays a lot of ripe fruit sweetness, lees, tart berries and earthy spice. Plenty of warmth – that booze really doesn’t shy away one bit. A fair bitterness to it as well. Finishes dry, earthy and peppery with hints of red berries on the back end.

Mouthfeel: Very dry, prickly, a little astringent at times. Medium body, light-moderate Co2. 11.9% ABV…oopht.

Overall: Has nothing on the ’16 vintage. This one is a blend of multiple vintages and in our opinion it comes off a bit flinty and unrefined. Very complex and we have to give credit there. Not really to our taste though.

Fremont ‘BA B-Bomb – Coffee & Cinnamon Edition’


“This year’s release of B-Bomb is aged in 8–12-year-old American Oak bourbon barrels and is a blend of 9, 12, and 24-month old barrel-aged Winter Ale. This special edition adds cold brew coffee and cinnamon bark to complement the bourbon, oak, cacao, leather, toffee, and dark coffee notes achieved from its extended barrel aging and barrel blending. Each barrel contributes a different note, and combining each barrel to create a coherent tone is a distinct art and true pleasure. Please do enjoy this unique barrel-aged ale today but know that Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb will age gracefully for years to come. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Abominable.

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: As black as midnight with a short dark brown head. It eventually settles to the rim with scarce lace work as it ebbs.

Aroma: The cinnamon definitely jumps out of the glass. As it does it hints at other spices like nutmeg, pepper, clove and a touch of ginger. Initially the coffee was totally drowned out by the spice but it opens up as it settles. Soft bourbon oak also arriving late. Disappointingly light on the bottom end i.e minimal chocolate, licorice, molasses etc. Was hoping for a bit more there.

Flavour: As anticipated the spice mixture comes on strong…mostly cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Again the coffee component is almost MIA until it’s uncovered around the mid-palate. By then the bourbon oak with its vanilla and dark fruits have enveloped and set up the spicy, roasty and semi sweet finish.

Mouthfeel: Nice and dense, oily and warming. Low Co2. 14% ABV shows up a fair bit but can be excused at that size.

Overall: We had high expectations for this but it’s just slightly unbalanced, boozy and abrasive. It’s also lacking that hearty chocolate and licorice base. We noticed the brewers call the B-bombs “Winter Ales.” This may have something to do with the lack of typical Stout characters we were searching for.

Fremont BA ‘B-Bomb – Coconut Edition’


“This year’s release of B-Bomb is aged in 8–12-year-old American Oak bourbon barrels and is a blend of 9, 12, and 24-month old barrel-aged Winter Ale. This special edition adds toasted coconut to complement the bourbon, oak, cacao, leather, toffee, and dark coffee notes achieved from its extended barrel aging and barrel blending. Each barrel contributes a different note, and combining each barrel to create a coherent tone is a distinct art and true pleasure. Please do enjoy this unique barrel-aged ale today but know that Coconut Edition B-Bomb will age gracefully for years to come. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Abominable.

Glassware: Snifter.

Appearance: Pitch black with a wispy brown head. It slowly fades and forms a halo with wet lace dragged down the glass.

Aroma: Holy moly the contrast here is remarkable. At the base there’s a hedonistic fusion of molasses, licorice, dark chocolate, fortified wine and leather but it’s so perfectly lifted by wafts of coconut, vanilla and spicy bourbon. The barrels provide just the right amount of woody oak and toffee. A bit of toasted cacao as well. Phenomenal.

Flavour: It only gets better. The astonishing thing is it’s all so neatly wrapped up without one flavour dominating. One simply compliments the next…molasses into bourbon into licorice into coconut then woody oak, dark chocolate, vanilla, raw tobacco, charred malts, cacao and figs. All together with one big old long finish.

Mouthfeel: Incredibly smooth and silky for its size. (13.2% ABV). Full bodied with perfect Co2. A real pleasure to drink.

Overall: After trying BA Dark Star earlier this year we thought it would be impossible to top it. Well, they have…this is next level. Outstanding drop.

New England Brewing 2020 ‘Big Winter’ Belgian Dark Ale


“We brew Big Winter once a year to celebrate frosts, snow flurries and the smell of wood fires – a New England Winter! A strong Belgian Dark Ale, Big Winter has an aroma of dark fruit, burnt sugar and toffee, before taking you to a body of rich malts, chocolate and lingering candy sweetness. Wait for a cold evening and wear a beanie.”

Glassware: Trappist Chalice.

Appearance: Deep chestnut complexion with a short tan head. It steadily reduced and formed a halo with modest lace as we go.

Aroma: Hearty and warming. At first the Belgian yeast characters were a bit top heavy but as it settles the rich chocolate malts, earthy hops and sweet dark fruits pull them in to line. Even still we pick up heady notes of banana runts, clove, sourdough and fruit esters. Getting hints of other unique scents like ginger bread, chocolate bullets, honeycomb and carob. Solid.

Flavour: Rich, complex and nicely layered with mildly roasted malts, earthy fig and prunes, Belgian yeast esters and nuanced chocolate flavours. Something a little nutty in here too. Crusty pumpernickel and sweet brioche then moving in to a slightly cloying finish with a touch of roast to balance.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth with medium-full body. Low-ish Co2. The 8.6% ABV is fairly well concealed.

Overall: Another impressive addition to their annual Big Winter series. The only criticism would be that it gets a tad cloying by the end. That’s it, other than that it’s a cracking winter drop (even though we just had it in spring!)

Your Mates Brewing ‘Donnie’ Dark Ale


“Donnie is the dark horse, the strong and silent type. He may seem a bit intimidating at first, but once you crack a beer with him you’ll find that he’s a smooth operator with a heart of gold. If you’ve got a mate like #donniedarkale, you’ve got a mate for life.”

Glassware: Deep cola pour with a short tanned head on top. Steady reduction and reasonable lace as it ebbs.

Aroma: Nice and smoky. Really gritty and peaty and chock full of charred malt, ash, burnt wood, chocolate, tobacco and raw coffee bean. Really packs a punch for its size. Maybe just maybe a hint of smoked almonds and lightly burnt toffee rocking up late to the party. Nice!

Flavour: Just keeps enough meat on its bones. The smoky flavours are the most dominant, bringing other adjuncts like ash, charred wood and raw tobacco. Lightly roasted malts, chocolate and coffee, maybe a touch of earthy hops peeking through too. Finishes roasty and toasty with a little dryness to clean it all up.

Mouthfeel: Just a tad thin for our liking. Mild-medium body. Co2 and ABV are spot on.

Overall: Not bad. The aroma is its strongest attribute but it went ever so slightly down hill after that. Look, it’s a decent drop, love the smoky notes – very unexpected. It just didn’t wow us in the end.

Woolshed Brewery ‘Judas The Dark’ Dark Ale


“A tasty dark beer brewed with locally grown and roasted wattleseed. This dark ale is unique in its flavour and design. Roasted malts provide chocolate and spice, while the wattleseed provides toffee, hazelnut and coffee flavours.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Brown with deep ruby red and almost purple-ish highlights. It forms a short tan head which collapses quickly. Spotty lace is dragged down the glass as we imbibe.

Aroma: Lovely roasted characters hitting the olfactory’s initially. Coffee being the strongest with roasted pine nuts, 100% dark chocolate, ash and burnt toast backing up. The wattleseed is quite noticeable with its earthy dry spiciness and its almost Weet Bix and Milk Arrowroot-like accents. Nice caramel sweetness as well. Quite the surprise package!

Flavour: Excellent transition on to the palate but with a bit less sweetness and even further pronunciation on the roasty/toasty vibes. Lots of coffee, lots of roasted nuts and dark chocolate followed by very subtle hints of wattleseed. It all shifts in to a dry, toasty and slightly smoky-savoury finish with incredible length.

Mouthfeel: Full and creamy but with a district aerated texture. Only 4.7% ABV which is crazy considering the amount of body. Mild-moderate Co2.

Overall: They’ve done a magnificent job here…packed a lot of body and flavour in while keeping that ABV below 5%. It’s almost sessional! Take a bow Woolshed.

Grand Ridge Brewing ‘Midnight Madness’ Dark Ale

47573653_995664507284361_5767726128852631552_n“Dark, roasty coffee notes mingle with sweeter, well-balanced malt notes to create very easy drinking Dark Ale, even at 6.2%. Throw in some vanilla pods, chilli and cinnamon and you have yourself a stunning little beer.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Dark brown with a creamy two finger head perched on top. Excellent lace clings to the glass as we imbibe.

Aroma: There’s a wealth of it here but it’s a little shy early on! A vigorous swirl arouses the deep roasty characters, jaffa, coffee, chocolate, spice and rich toffee with more subtle hints of dark fruits and syrupy sweetness also there. It’s good just a little cagey.

Flavour: Pretty much follows on from the nose. Kind of sweet, kind of spicy with chewy notes of chocolate, dark fruit and discernible citrusy hop bitterness midway. As it progresses the coffee and malt roast really open up and land on a dry, bitter but roasty finish with lingering spicy notes on the rear.

Mouthfeel: Slick and rather oily texture. It’s light on yet the rich malts hold the body up. Medium body and Co2.

Overall: It has been close to five years since we’ve reviewed a Grand Ridge beer. Mostly because the beers simply haven’t been up to scratch but this one is a welcome surprise. Good depth, interesting flavours and aromas and most of all…. It’s crafty! Decent drop.

Hairyman Brewery ‘Cory’s Claim’ Dark Ale

26734417_801079720076175_8203168726081252977_n“On February 4th 1852, George Cory set out with his pack horses for his fellow gold miners at Sofala. It should have been an easy two-day journey along flat tracks. Eight days later George arrived completely buggered. He told of how for days he had been chased to hell and back by the legendary ‘Hairyman’. To spare his poor nags it had been necessary to lighten their loads, which for the record consisted of six firkins of fine dark ale, rich in hops. Fortunately, George had managed to bring though almost a whole firkin. His mates were just glad to have their cobber back safe after his ordeal at the hands of that fiendish mongrel.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Deep cola hue with a short cap over the top. Steady reduction and a spotty lace working its way down the glass.

Aroma: Quite similar to their lager and by that we mean similar in composition. The nose is brimming with nuts, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and caramel/toffee. A hefty malt structure is providing that subtle roast/smoky character at the base. Very basic but executed to perfection.

Flavour: It comes on quite strong actually. An unexpected bitterness quickly lays down for the nutty malts, chocolate, cocoa powder, coffee and caramel. The lingering bitterness takes on some of that roast through the mid as it delivers a bold finish which offers hop bitterness, roasted malts, coffee and nuts in the tail.

Mouth feel: Very slick and velvety but also a touch dry and forthcoming. How they’ve achieved that with only a 4.7% ABV is phenomenal. Good weight. Mild-moderate co2.

Overall: It has been many years but we think the Lord Nelson ‘Old Admiral’ has finally met its match! It has lambasted a long reign at the top of the table when it comes to dark ales but this right here….this would give it a run for its money. Superb.

Bacchus Brewing Co. ‘Lamingtonne’ Imperial Dark Ale

15965504_628251787358970_6625057226194984572_n“Imperial version of our best selling lamington dark ale. No longer mimicking the light cake of the original, this is a full on luxurious coconut chocolate cake”.

Served in a beer tulip. The obsidian body is capped off by a finger of fizzy tan foam that rapidly collapsed to a collar with minimal lace being left behind.
To any Aussie the word ‘lamington’ should instantly make you salivate. For anyone who isn’t familiar with them they are an Australian culinary masterstroke that takes sponge cake, a coating of melted chocolate and is finished with sprinkles of coconut flakes. In other words….bloody delicious!! And who else to turn it in to a beer but Bacchus?! Once again they’ve got it dialled in with moreish wafts of coconut, chocolate sauce, raspberry jam, espresso, dark fruits, vanilla and a faint hint of booze. Pure indulgence folks!
Like so many of Bacchus’s dessert beers the Co2 level is lifted and gives the otherwise thick texture a bit of an unsuspecting boost. There’s also a belly warming heat from the 10% ABV as well but that should be a given.
We thought the aroma was exceptional…The flavour is dead set spot on. Once the initial warmth from the booze subsides the delicious coconut, chocolate, dark fruits and sweet doughy malts carve out that true flavour of the lamington. The finish is super sweet, boozy and a tad salty, which was weird, but nevertheless it doesn’t effect the overall experience of the beer.
Props again to Bacchus you’ve nailed it! The coconut, chocolate, jammy fruits and dark malts all combine to produce a beer that emulates a lamington to perfection. An uber boozy and liquefied lamington that is. We raise our glass to you good sirs.

Bacchus Brewing Co. Snickers Chocolate Ale

14666124_579326725584810_3093289848330470885_n“Snickers Chocolate Ale – 500ml (Alc 6.3%). From the first pour you will be hit by the heady aroma of chocolate & peanuts. The flavour doesn’t disappoint, rich caramel, chocolate & salty peanuts blend perfectly in this amazing dessert beer. Formerly called Snickers Amber Ale, we’ve given it a slight name change.”

Served in a beer tulip. Pouring a dark brown with some faint mahogany hues revealed when held to the light. A creamy two finger head assembles on top but it collapses to a fine film with scattered lace being dispersed around the glass. After a few whiffs we’re confident in saying that these guys have nailed the snickers component – front and center are the peanuts while hefty wafts of chocolate, caramel, cocoa and nougat push up in support. Maybe a hint of lactose, hinting at marzipan in its delivery. That’s about it but why would they need anything else when they’ve got this aroma dialed in. Brilliant! In the mouth it’s full and creamy with an interesting little saltiness on the lips. Nice touch. Co2 is bang on. The progression over the tongue is just so smooth and effortless its simply a real pleasure to drink. If there’s only one downside it is that the flavour doesn’t have the same level of impeccable execution as the aroma. This is in no way a negative though as the palate is awash with, chocolate, caramel, nutty malts, cocoa, subtle vanilla and marzipan. Just a very mild bitterness preludes a soft dryness in the finish as the sweet sweet flavour of snickers endures on the back end. Way to set the bar so high there Bacchus! This is only our first crack at this breweries range and…wow…what an initiation. This is just down right delicious. Kudos Bacchus.

Modus Operandi ‘Carribean Queen’ dark ale

image“A sumptuous dark ale brewed with coconut, lactose and milk chocolate. This decadent lady tastes like a Lamington and brings the fat child out in all of us.” Hahaha funny.

Poured into a shaker glass, we see dark brown/Amber with a creamy 10mm tan head that retains exceptionally and is full of compact carbonation. Aromas of chocolate, roasted malts, mild fruit hops and vanilla. First sip yields a rich sweetness with contained bitterness. Flavours consist of mild chocolate, a buttery backbone which must be the coconut used, sweet malts which must include the lactose sugar, a subdued bitterness from the hops, and espresso like flavours. Really tasty. Body is medium to full, with great length. Mild carbonation on the palate, but definitely sipping only for this one due to density and enjoyment. It’s 6.7% Alc vol but you can’t taste any booze burn. Back palate showcases more sweet chocolate, nutty malts, vanilla, and a smoothness that is delicious. So easy to drink. All the flavours just gel really nicely. Coconut is subdued here though. Not the dominant flavour but certainly adds to the fat content or density. The lactose also adds the creaminess that is tasted. We not so sure of the Lamington connotation. Don’t not get that jammy hit. We smelt the mild fruit hop aroma but it doesn’t flow through the palate. The coconut is very mild. Maybe more coconut and slightly more jammy/marmalade hops and this brew would be  killer. Good beer though.


Garage Project ‘Cookies & Cream’ Dark Ale

1005544_465712533612897_7557056305675698471_n“A touch of sweet indulgence made in collaboration with Auckland’s iconic Moustache milk & cookie bar. Brewed with Belgian yeast, dark caramelized malts and milk sugars to create a beer with a rich, juicy dark malt and biscuit character with just a hint of chocolate and a touch of spice. Go on, treat yourself.”

Ever since the first Garage Project beer we bought back in early 2013 these guys have always had the propensity to be creative with the artwork on their labels. Just recently they’ve stepped it up a few notches with the introduction of cans along with some really intricate strips on their bottled range. They return with another interesting piece here – a swirly and almost tripped out pattern that kind of reminds us of a vanilla milkshake with raspberry swirls down the glass. An ode to the milk & cookie bar perhaps. OK let’s roll on.

Served in a beer tulip. The attractive crimson appearance is covered by a frothy three finger crown. Some wavy lace patterns are omitted as the head gradually subsides. It’s distinctly Belgian on the nose. A sweet, grainy scent is nicely worked in to a somewhat creamy and lactosey character initially. Cookie dough comes through while a subtle hint of white chocolate drops is uncovered. What isn’t working well is this unwelcome fresh pear/apple scent that is usually an aroma imparted by Belgian yeast. It works well with Belgian beer, just not as well in this dark ale. The mouth feel offers a good consistency. Co2 is up and the body holds a decent weight. The 6.2% ABV is well concealed and the light texture makes for effortless progression down the throat. A tasty combo of dark malts are offset by a subtle creaminess upfront as a delicate bitterness flows through. As it carries across the mid a slight roast comes forward leading in to a mildly dry and doughy finish with reasonable length to the rear palate. We’d have to admit this wasn’t what we were expecting. It’s similar to Lord Nelsons Old Admiral where we were hoping for something thicker and creamier. Don’t get us wrong though, the cookies and cream flavors do come through but in our opinion this yeasty pear/apple flavour really didn’t work in well with the fundamental character of the bale. Not bad, we’re just a little deflated by it.

Hunter beer co. ‘Xmas pudding beer’ Dark ale

1546043_221460388038114_1282697350_nTried this on tap in a tasting paddle at the brewery in the Hunter Valley. Mahogany/brown appearance with a thin filmy head over the top. The short head maintained for a few minutes but receded to a halo without much lacing. The aroma offers moreish wafts of clove, cinnamon, dates, dark fruits caramel and brown sugar. Quite complex actually. Mildly carbonated with a rich, creamy mouth feel. The palate follows on from the aroma with slightly complex notes of clove, dates and roasted chocolate malt. A slight warmth from the booze (8% ABV) and cocoa is drawn out nicely on the back end. Good length. As it says on the tap logo, this beer is literally a liquid alcoholic Christmas cake in your glass. Nice work, they achieved exactly what they were after. We really enjoyed this one.

Moo brew dark ale

image“This Dark Ale is inspired by the American Brown Ale style. It presents dark with a deep cherry-red tint. The palate has caramel and chocolate, and a lightly roasted finish. Hop bitterness and aromatic character are balanced and pleasantly textured. Serve with chocolate, caramel and coffee-based desserts, with Mexican Molé, grilled white meats or aged cheddar”.

We were lucky enough to try this on tap a few times on our recent trip to Tasmania. Unfortunately we didn’t get to the brewery but it’s certainly on the cards. Served in a beer tulip this beauty pours a characteristic porter-style darkness with an edge of tawny copper red. The tightly packed 2 finger beige head retains well as it omits plenty of sudsy lacing down the glass. The aroma is gorgeous, packed full of dark sugary fruits, caramel, roasted malts, dark chocolate, coffee and mocha. Something a little funky in here too, like tart berries/cherries. Fuller bodied with mild-medium carbonation. Round and chalky mouth feel. Initially the flavour is packed full of rich roasted malts, coffee and a muted bittering from the earthy hops. Some hints of chocolate in the mid moves forward and finishes with a mild roasted nuttiness with good duration. 5% ABV is a touch under what we were expecting but never does it subtract from the depth of the body in this beer. Session ability is out but full flavour is in. Top notch dark ale from a top notch Tasmanian brewery. Great beer.

White rabbit dark ale

White rabbit dark ale“An intriguing dark ale that moves to its own beat, our minds set about creating a beer that contradicted itself. Rich, dark and flavoursome but at the same time ever refreshing. Malt driven but with the aromatic lift of generous doses of hops. With the help of traditional open fermentation tanks we let our Dark Ale yeast play… and it likes to play hard. Yeast normally does its thing in closed tanks that tends constrains it work, but with open tanks (that are just like a big soup tin without the lid), the yeast is allowed to run wild”.

Brewed by the guys at Little Creatures, which unfortunately got sold to a huge parent company that doesn’t care much for the real craft beer industry. Anyhow, this dark ale was served in to a shaker glass with the deep mahogany/brown pour boasting attractive red hues. Atop sits a one and a half finger tan head that retains well, settling to a decent covering over the top. Good lacing. Not a great deal of character in the aroma, what we could manage to pick up were subtle wafts of sweet malts, cocoa, nuts, caramel and plum. Not too bad. The mouth feel was creamy with mild carbonation and medium body. Upfront, roasted malts and chocolate work their way into a slightly sweeter mid-palate. The finish has a nice nuttiness with caramelised hints of toffee and cocoa. 4.9% ABV doesn’t really help the slightly thin body, but essentially it’s brewed commercially for sessional drinking so we guess they achieved what they were after. Meh, it’s just not crafty enough for us.

Lord Nelson Brewery ‘Old Admiral’ Dark Ale

Lord Nelson Brewery Dark Ale“Old Ale – our strong, full bodied malt driven ale has hints of caramel, balanced with generous hop bitterness. Red with black highlights.”

This is a top shelf beer from this institution of a brewery that is situated in The Rocks, Sydney. Served in a beer tulip it pours a dark brown with a frothy 1 finger brown head that collapses almost instantly to a lonely patch of foam on top. Laced poorly. A very English ale-driven aroma here, very nutty with a tonne of bready and caramel malts coming forward. The firm ABV of 6.1% may also be driving the dark fruity wafts of Christmas cake and ripe cherry that lead to a subtle decadence from hints of chocolate and cocoa, really give this aroma another level of depth and complexity. The taste is quite similar to the aroma with this delicious mix of caramelised toffee, dark malts, rum, subtle alcohol and nuts that finish off a well rounded ale. Quite an oily texture happening in the mouth, the only downside is that it’s a tad slippery and it could be a little fuller. It has a slightly complex flavor so it isn’t a long session beer, we would recommend a pint or two but after that, inebriation comes knocking. Definitely worth a nudge (as it’s quite well priced) and even better on tap at the brewery. A decent beer from a highly regarded brewery here. Good offering.